Expect the unexpected

By Tina L. Pugliese, APR, Pugliese Public Relations

tina puglieseDuring the meeting of a national pharmacy organization in Orlando, I received a call from one of the local television affiliates asking if I could provide an interview with a pharmacist about expiration dates on medications.  It seemed like a simple request.  I located a pharmacist who was attending the meeting who could address this issue.  I briefed him on what the reporter had told me would be his story angle.

When the interview began, it seemed like it would be fairly routine.  The reporter asked questions such as, “What is the purpose of the expiration date on medicine?” “What happens if someone takes a medication that has expired?”

Just as the pharmacist was beginning to relax and settle into the interview, the reporter pulled out several bottles of over-the-counter medications, including children’s products, and shoved them under the pharmacist’s nose as the camera was rolling.  The reporter then said, “We purchased these children’s medications at [name] pharmacy.  As you can see, they deliberately placed their bar code labels directly over the expiration dates.  When we removed the bar code label, we found that all of these medicines had expired — by a year or so!  What do you think of this practice?  Is the public in danger?”

Fortunately, the pharmacist had worked with the media before and was able to salvage the situation very adroitly.  He explained that those labels were probably placed on the boxes by someone who was stocking the shelves, not by the pharmacist.

The story eventually ran as a three-part series in May (a “sweeps” month!).  While the reporter achieved his goal of creating a sensational story, it did not seem as if pharmacists were knowingly trying to sell outdated medications to the public.

If the pharmacist had become rattled or defensive, or responded by indicating that something illegal or immoral had occurred, those would have been the sound bites that appeared in the piece.  Instead, the pharmacist came across as the “voice of reason,” who explained how this might have occurred.

Tina L. Pugliese, APR is an executive coach and counselor for Pugliese Public Relations, a communications firm in Boynton Beach, Florida. Pugliese is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, and is the author of the book, Public Relations for Pharmacists, and e-books, Marketing Your Business for Success, How To Work With The Media, and Public Relations Manual — A Guide for Entrepreneurs.  She can be reached at (561) 889-3575 and by email at Tina@PugliesePR.com.  Her web site is www.PugliesePR.com

Article excerpted from e-book, Public Relations Manual — A Guide for Entrepreneurs, by Tina L. Pugliese, APR.


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